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Diverse watchdog duties keep the Mono Lake Committee busy

April 4th, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director

The Mono Lake Committee is serious about protecting and restoring Mono Lake, its tributary streams, and surrounding lands. That means being on constant alert as a watchdog, and recent months have provided some interesting examples of what that requires.

The Committee keeps a close eye on daily Mono Basin streamflows at multiple locations, such as the recovering Rush Creek bottomlands. Photo by Robbie Di Paolo.

Sometimes the Committee chases issues that have lengthy histories and require continuous pressure to move toward resolution—the 2013 Stream Restoration Agreement with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) is one example. Years of work … more »

Mono Basin snowpack increases to 76% of average

April 3rd, 2018 by Greg, Information & Restoration Specialist

Snow surveys conducted around every April 1st coincide with the average date of peak snowpack. This year, the surveys were completed at the end of March and revealed a large increase in snowpack over the previous month—from 50% of average to 76% of average!

Map by Robbie DiPaolo.

Map of snow survey locations compiled by Robbie DiPaolo. The Lee Vining Creek watershed above the DWP diversion dam and the Rush Creek watershed above the SCE powerhouse are outlined in red.

… more »

Official April 1 Mono Lake level: 6381.86 feet

April 2nd, 2018 by Arya, Communications Director

Technically, we did it on March 31, but for all intents and purposes, it’s the April 1 official joint reading of Mono Lake’s level with Mono Lake Committee and Los Angeles Department of Water & Power (DWP) staff together. This reading on this day is particularly important because the number recorded translates into how much water DWP is allowed to divert from Mono Basin streams over the course of the coming year.

Mono Lake Committee and Los Angeles Department of Water & Power staff walking down to the lake shore for the annual joint lake level reading. Photo by Bartshe Miller.

… more »

Buy your ticket now for the tenth Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner

March 31st, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

Buy your ticket now so you can join us in early May halfway up Mammoth Mountain … for the tenth Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner!

Andrea Lawrence Award Dinner
5:30pm on Friday, May 4, 2018
Parallax Restaurant, McCoy Station
Mammoth Mountain Ski Area

This year we’ll present the Andrea Lawrence Award to Phil Pister, retired California Department of Fish & Wildlife fishery biologist for the Eastern Sierra. Phil is a visionary desert pupfish and golden trout conservationist, has been an agent of positive ecological change, and is an advocate for and teacher of environmental ethics—he embodies the spirit of the award, which celebrates passionate engagement in community and the land.

Take a beautiful gondola ride up to McCoy Station for an evening of delicious food, inspiring company, and exceptional views as we celebrate Phil. Reserve your tickets with a $75 donation online here, or by calling (760) 647-6595 by Monday, April 16. We hope to see you there!

Lundy Canyon development proposal

March 22nd, 2018 by Lisa, Associate Policy Director

Mono Lake Committee staff are constantly looking out for activity that conflicts with agency management plans or that threatens the Mono Basin. At the end of last year, one such thing caught our eye: a development inquiry for a remote, undeveloped, 49.3-acre inholding in Lundy Canyon.

A 49.3-acre private parcel in Lundy Canyon, located on the talus slope pictured here, will ideally become part of the Inyo National Forest. Photo by Elin Ljung.

The inquiry was listed on the public meeting agenda for Mono County’s Land Development Technical Advisory Committee (LDTAC), which provides early coordinated technical review of development projects and educates applicants on Mono County regulations and requirements.

Too good to be true

The LDTAC inquiry was made by a potential buyer who was lured into the purchase of the property under the assumption that it would be possible to build a cabin on the site. For someone who has never been to Lundy Canyon, the concept of a remote inholding probably sounded appealing … more »

Seventeenth Annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua

March 19th, 2018 by Nora, Lead Naturalist Guide

Dust off your field guides and get ready to welcome the birds back to their summer breeding grounds! The seventeenth annual Mono Basin Bird Chautauqua is June 15–17 this year.

This year’s event boasts one hundred exciting field trips, workshops, and presentations. We are also excited to announce the return of esteemed artist and naturalist John Muir Laws, who will be giving a presentation about how to think like a naturalist, as well as multiple drawing workshops and field trips.

Woodhouse’s Scrub-jay perched on a pinyon pine. Photo by Nora Livingston.

Remember, the Chautauqua supports bird research and conservation in the Eastern Sierra, so you can feel good about celebrating the rich diversity of birds of this region with field trips, friends, and fun!

The program information and grid schedule are all posted online, so it’s time to start planning your weekend. Hotels fill up quickly in the summer, so we recommend booking as early as possible.

Registration opens Sunday, April 15 at 6:30am. We encourage you to register online at that time if you have particular events you’d like to attend, as many classes fill almost instantaneously.

We hope to see you at the Chautauqua this year!

Farewell to Mono Lake advocate Genny Smith, 1922-2018

March 17th, 2018 by Geoff, Executive Director

Genny Smith, 1922–2018. Photo courtesy of Genny Smith.

On Sunday, March 4, the Eastern Sierra lost a lifelong champion with the passing of writer and conservationist Genny Smith at age 96.

Genny played a key role in protecting Mono Lake, getting involved in 1982 as a Board member of the young Mono Lake Committee at a time when court battles with the Los Angeles Department of Water & Power were heating up. She was a strong advocate for protecting the special wild places that make California so wonderful, and she had the determination and strategic thinking to turn such lofty goals into real accomplishments. She helped hone the strategy of recruiting members to the cause, making sure that the Committee was building a coalition of people who cared about Mono Lake for the long haul. In later years as a Board Member Emeritus she was always available to give advice—and inspiration—on the continuing efforts to protect this place. … more »

This year’s Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Los Angeles—a wild success

March 13th, 2018 by Gabrielle, Project Specialist

Every March, Mono Lake Committee staff make their annual migration to the southern end of the aqueduct to host the Wild & Scenic Film Festival in Los Angeles. The event serves as a way to connect with members and friends in Los Angeles as well as a fundraiser for the Committee’s Outdoor Education Center programs.

Committee staff with a student volunteer who will be participating in the OEC program this May. Photo by Andrew Youssef.

This year, in an effort to reach more potential members, we switched to two new venues—the Monica Film Center in Santa Monica and the Sierra Madre Playhouse. The showings at both venues were a huge success! … more »

Winter & Spring 2018 Mono Lake Newsletter now online

March 12th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

The theme of this issue of the Mono Lake Newsletter is vigilance. Really, it has run through every Newsletter, starting 40 years ago with a group of sharp-eyed, shaggy biologists who took note of what was happening to Mono Lake. Ever since those early days, we’ve kept watch.

You’ll see our continued vigilance in the pages that follow—we noticed a leaking stream, an unusual development proposal, a new threat to the California Gulls, and a flow violation at Rush Creek. We watched the Mill Creek return ditch flow test carefully. We visit the streams regularly, we keep an eye on daily streamflow reports, and we scrutinize the lake level.

We look around, and we look ahead. As this winter seems … more »

35th year for California Gull study: Research documents changes in gull population and nesting habitat

March 8th, 2018 by Elin, Communications Coordinator

In 2017 Point Blue Conservation Science continued its Mono Lake California Gull monitoring study with the goal of better understanding how the gulls respond to changes in lake conditions over time. Indeed, 2017 was a year of change for both the gulls and this critical long-term study, which is supported by the Mono Lake Committee (read the full report online here).

Approximately 27,000 California Gulls nested on Mono Lake’s islets in 2017, well below the 35-year average of 46,000 nesting adults. Photo courtesy of Kristie Nelson.

Following two years of testing, the nesting gull counts were done using aerial photography instead of the previous method of ground counts. Results indicate that counting nesting gulls from the aerial photographs matched ground count tallies by 96%, and the new survey method is less disruptive to the gulls.

Lowest-ever number of nesting gulls

The population of nesting California Gulls (Larus californicus) in 2017 was the lowest ever recorded at … more »

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